While today’s generation of photographers speak of megapixels and other digital jargon to describe high-resolution images, Oregon photographer Christopher Burkett is still able to achieve precision without the use of digital technology. But, not for long. He’s rushing to print his large format landscape photographs in astounding detail using his last batch of discontinued Cibachrome supplies before they lose their effectiveness.
Burkett’s work involves a painstakingly slow process — from scouting a location with photographic potential, to setting up and shooting with his 8 x 10 large format camera, to making big, high-resolution prints in his studio. But the results, as PBS NewsHour reports, are worth it. With image quality, detail, and depth unrivaled even by today’s digital techniques, his work speaks of decades of experience and mastery of the craft.
Watch the report below and you’ll be nothing short of amazed.
Burkett is now down to a few years’ worth of supplies for making his large format Cibachrome prints. Also known as Ilfochrome, his printing technique of choice is a positive-to-positive photographic process that reproduces transparencies on photographic paper. In this process, the dyes are embedded in the paper. To reveal the image, the “unwanted dyes” are bleached off in the processing. The result is a richly-colored, highly-stable image without any chemical residue. When Ilford discontinued their Cibachrome photographic paper, Burkett bought a 10-year supply and carried on with his craft.
Part of Burkett’s printing process is the meticulous dodging and burning, which has been largely replaced by the “digital darkroom” techniques of today. By controlling the light that exposes the images on the paper, he’s able to lighten and darken the right areas of his photos, perfecting the ethereal, luminous look that draws the eyes.
Anyone who’s ever shared his passion for photography or had an interest in printmaking will surely get as emotional as Burkett when the inevitable happens. “I also realize there’s gonna be one day when I leave the darkroom and I turn the lights off, and that’s the last time I’m gonna be in there,” he said as he fought back the tears. “That’s a difficult thing. Because I love what I do, and going out and photographing is one thing. But spending time bringing the light out of these images to share them with other people is really what it’s all about.”
Screenshot taken from the video